2013-14 Ashes: The Return Sojourn of the Urn, From England to Down Under

Blog by: Shraddha

Australia v England - Third Test: Day 5

The big screen at WACA proudly reflected the momentousness of the Australian victory over the Englishmen as it proclaimed, ‘The Urn Returns.’ Considering that this was the same Australian team that looked completely out-of-sorts just a few months ago at England, this turnabout brings many memories of the fabled Australian cricketing teams of the past, alongside placing this squad right with those legends who never failed to bring – retain, in most cases – the Ashes home.

On a track where cracks abounded and where groundsmen had to be called on more than one occasion to cover it up, the Australians showed the Englishmen why they were so confident about playing at WACA, exploiting the conditions without giving anything in return. If Steven Smith scored a century in the first innings, rescuing a seemingly hapless Australian side which tottered at five for 143, Shane Watson and David Warner completed the ‘from-insult-to-injury’ phase for England with their dual tons.

And where the English bowlers were plundered, the Australian bowling attack provided sure-fire sustenance by breaking apart English batsmen’s morale along with dismantling their wickets. Mitchell Johnson was once again the rock against whom the English batsmen crashed to their peril with Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon picking up the rest of the English wickets alongside maintaining absolute stinginess with respect to the run count.

On the other side, it didn’t help matters for England that two of its most experienced bowlers, Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson, were left gasping as Shane Watson and George Bailey took them to task with the latter equalling Brian Lara’s record of most runs scored in an over (28). Rewinding back to the English Ashes, for the Australians, it seemed like due retribution for the damage that Jimmy Anderson had wrought in the test series then and as such was met with firm approval from the vociferous Australian crowd.

Though Alastair Cook, in his post-match speech made special notations about the crowd support that the visitors had received, looking quite upbeat for a captain whose team had just lost the most coveted cricketing trophy, there are several areas that haven’t been dealt with by the English captain.

The partnership between Ian Bell and Ben Stokes that gave England a last chance of drawing the match didn’t shape up when it needed to. The way, in which Bell was dismissed off Siddle, trying to move his bat away from the ball, showed certain casualness which ended up proving to be quite disastrous for England. Despite Cook’s continued emphasis that the team needed its senior players to perform, when it came to dire situations, most of the senior players failed to convert their score-lines.

Kevin Pietersen had a good partnership going with Ian Bell in the second innings but his haste in trying to emulate one of his earlier shots landed the ball to Ryan Harris at long on, off Nathan Lyon. As with Alastair Cook who, in the first innings lost his wicket trying to be heroic when he was caught by Warner at point, again off Lyon.

And with each English miss, the boisterousness and swagger of the Australians only increased which further widened the disparity between the two sides. The ability of the Australians to get into the psyche of their opponents, which was missing a few months ago, has returned even more emphatically even though the comparatively new-gen team is still evolving for most parts.

The Darren Lehmann factor has definitely worked for the Australians as the team’s resilience and togetherness being obvious even to the most sceptic eye. In contrast, the unflappability and silence of the English coach – Andy Flower – hasn’t exactly been well-received. Though Alastair Cook and Andy Flower will want to go back to the proverbial drawing board with a view to salvage what’s left of the series, the resonation of this 3-0 Ashes regaining performance is sure to leave a deeper impact than the 3-0 whitewash of England over Australia.

A reality-check for both sides, the 2013-14 Ashes series has been. For England, which perhaps remained too long shrouded in the covers of complacency, the series has been an eye-opener about its method of approaching important games. While for Australia, it’s been an eye-opener to the fact that the team always had it in them to bounce back despite all on-field adversities.

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